Michael Jackson (writer)

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Michael Jackson
Jackson at the 2004 Helsinki Beer Festival
Born(1942-03-27)27 March 1942
Died30 August 2007(2007-08-30) (aged 65)
London, England
Known forBeer and whisky reviewing and journalism
PartnerPaddy Gunningham (1981—2007)[1][2]
WebsiteMichael Jackson's Beer Hunter
Rare Beer Club founderMichael Jackson Collection - Archive at Oxford Brookes University The Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing and Distilling - Funding technical education and career advancement for black, indigenous, and people of colour in the brewing and distilling industries

Michael James Jackson (27 March 1942 – 30 August 2007) was an English writer and journalist. He was the author of many influential books about beer and whisky. He was a regular contributor to a number of broadsheets, particularly The Independent and The Observer.[3]

Jackson's books have sold over three million copies worldwide and have been translated into eighteen languages.[4] He is credited with helping to start a renaissance of interest in beer and breweries worldwide in the 1970s, particularly in the United States.[5] He is also widely credited with popularising the idea of beer styles.[6] His influential television series The Beer Hunter was shown in fifteen countries.[7]

He was as well-versed in malt whisky as he was in beer, and his book Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion (1989) is the best-selling book on the subject in the world.[4]

At the time of his death Jackson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for at least a decade. He did not declare his illness until his symptoms caused some to think he was drunk.[3]


Jackson was born in Wetherby, West Riding of Yorkshire.[8] His father had Anglicised his Lithuanian Jewish surname Jakowitz to Jackson. The family moved to Leeds after the war.[8] He went to King James's Grammar School, Almondbury and became a journalist, particularly being associated with Edinburgh, where he first encountered whisky. On his return to London he briefly edited the advertising trade journal Campaign.

Michael Jackson became known in beer circles in 1977 when his book The World Guide To Beer was first published. This was later translated into more than ten languages and is still considered to be one of the most fundamental books on the subject.[9] The modern theory of beer style is largely derived from this book, in which Jackson categorised a variety of beers from around the world in local style groups suggested by local customs and names.[10]

His work had a special influence on the popularisation of the brewing culture in North America, and in 1989 he hosted a television series entitled The Beer Hunter, which was shown on Channel 4 in the UK and the Discovery Channel. It involved several episodes in which Jackson would visit a different country. Episodes featured beer barrels being lined with pitch or iron foundry workers drinking 'light' beer while they worked in hot conditions to quench thirst, practices which he knew were likely to be ended soon.

Jackson considered beer as a component of culture and described beers in their cultural context. Although he travelled around the world and discovered different beer cultures, he was especially fond of the Belgian beers. He was appointed to an honorary officer of the Ridderschap van de Roerstok in 1997 for his important contribution to the international success of the Belgian beers. This honour had previously only been given to brewers. Jackson helped create and worked with the only beer club he ever endorsed, Michael Jackson's Rare Beer Club.[11]

Michael Jackson's beer glassware (from left to right): summer glass, tasting glass, snifter, session glass

Jackson was also a reviewer of whiskies. In his book The Malt Whisky Companion, he reviewed a large number of whiskies and gave them marks from 0–100, considering only those with a score above seventy-five worth purchasing. He received the award of "Master of the Quaich".[citation needed]

He was a fan of rugby league.[12]

It was revealed in December 2006 that Jackson had been suffering for at least a decade from Parkinson's disease.[13] He also suffered from diabetes. Michael Jackson died of a heart attack in his home on the morning of 30 August 2007 at the age of 65.[14] He was survived by his girlfriend of 26 years, Paddy Gunningham, and her daughter and grandchildren.[15]


  • André Simon Award
  • Winner of the Glenfiddich Trophy, a British prize for culinary writers.
  • Honorary officer of the Ridderschap van de Roerstok, a Belgian award.
  • The Gold Tankard of the British Guild of Beer Writers, given for his CD-Roms
  • Columnist of the Year from the North American Guild of Beer Writers
  • Winner James Beard Award, 2006[16]
  • Keeper of the Quaich; Master of the Quaich (Scotch Whisky industry award)
  • Holder of the Haarikka ("haarikanhaltija" in Finnish) 1995 (Finnish Sahti Association award)
  • First recipient of the US Achievement Award of the Institute for Fermentation Studies.
  • Honorary Master beer judge; Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP)

Selective bibliography[edit]

  • Jackson, Michael (1976). The English Pub
  • Jackson, Michael (1977). The World Guide to Beer
  • Jackson, Michael (1986). Pocket Guide to Beer ISBN 0-671-72915-2
  • Jackson, Michael (1987). The World Guide to Whisky
  • Jackson, Michael (1988). New World Guide to Beer (Updated)
  • Jackson, Michael (1991). Michael Jackson's Great Beers of Belgium ISBN 0-7624-0403-5
  • Jackson, Michael (1997). Michael Jackson's Beer Companion ISBN 0-7624-0772-7
  • Jackson, Michael (1998) Ultimate Beer
  • Jackson, Michael (1998) Little Book on Beer
  • Jackson, Michael; Lucas, Sharon (ed.) (1999). Michael Jackson's complete guide to Single Malt Scotch (fourth ed.). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Running Press Book Publishers. ISBN 0-7624-0731-X
  • Jackson, Michael; Lucas, Sharon (ed.) (2000). Michael Jackson's Great Beer Guide. DK ADULT. ISBN 0-7894-5156-5
  • Jackson, Michael (2001). Scotland and its Whiskies
  • Jackson, Michael (2004). The Malt Whisky Companion, Penguin Books 2004 ISBN 978-1-4053-0234-0
  • Jackson, Michael (2005). Bar and Cocktail Party Book
  • Jackson, Michael (2005). Whisky ISBN 978-0-7513-4434-9


  • The Beer Hunter (1989), a set of two VHS videocassettes
  • A Journey of Discovery – Tasting the Classic Malts with Michael Jackson (1992), a VHS videocassette
  • The Beer Hunter (1995), a CD-ROM about the American beer culture
  • World Beer Hunter (1996), a CD-ROM on beer cultures around the world
  • Beer Hunter The Movie (2013), a documentary film on Michael's life

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Michael Jackson, 65, Beer Critic and author, Is Dead". The New York Times. 3 September 2007.
  2. ^ "Michael Jackson, in memory of the Beer Hunter". Beer-pages.com. Archived from the original on 28 June 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  3. ^ a b The Daily Telegraph (London), 1 September 2007, Obituary of Michael Jackson Writer who tirelessly examined and championed beer and later became an equal authority on malt whisky, p29
  4. ^ a b "Michael Jackson: best-selling beer writer". The Independent. London. 3 September 2007.
  5. ^ "Michael Jackson, 65, Beer Critic and author, Is Dead". The New York Times. 3 September 2007.
  6. ^ "Michael Jackson and the invention of beer style". Zythophile.wordpress.com. 23 October 2010. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  7. ^ Bowering, Ian (1995). Brewing in Formosa: 125 Years of Tradition, 1870–1995. Burnstown, Ontario, Canada: General Store Publishing House. p. v. ISBN 1896182224.
  8. ^ a b Protz, Roger (4 September 2007). "Obituary: Michael Jackson". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  9. ^ Article by Jeff Evans in Brewery History
  10. ^ Papazian, Charles (2003). The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. HarperResource. ISBN 0060531053.
  11. ^ "Rare Beer Club - Michael Jackson Craft Beers | Beer of the Month Club". The Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  12. ^ Obituary, Yorkshire Post
  13. ^ "Brookston Beer Bulletin » Blog Archive » Michael Jackson Reveals His Battle with Parkinson's". Archived from the original on 3 January 2007. Retrieved 4 September 2009.
  14. ^ Michael Jackson Passes Away – World Beer & Whisky Authority – Michael Jackson – 27 March 1942 – 30 August 2007 – By Carolyn Smagalski / BellaOnline's Beer and Brewing Editor
  15. ^ "Michael Jackson". The Daily Telegraph. 1 September 2007. Archived from the original on 17 May 2008.
  16. ^ "The James Beard Foundation Awards". Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. Retrieved 26 September 2009.

External links[edit]